Six Questions with Kathleen O’Leary, '20

Kathleen O’Leary, '20

What inspired you to attend law school?

I have always hoped to pursue a career in public service. After I graduated college, I worked for two years at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site—the third smallest National Park Site and the birthplace of President Kennedy. Although I loved my job, I felt called to enroll in law school to create change at a more macro level. I was especially inspired by both my own and friends’ “Me Too” stories. I am passionate about employment law and hope to work in this field after graduating law school.

What has been a significant or memorable experience that you have had during your time at the University of Chicago Law School?

My summer at the Employment Discrimination Clinic has been both my most significant and memorable experience in law school. It’s so exciting to put what I’ve learned in 1L into action, especially in a field I’m so passionate about. I’m also indebted to my clinical advisor, Professor Randall Schmidt, who has been the best supervisor and mentor I could have.

What organizations and activities are you involved with outside of the classroom?

I’m currently involved in the Employment Law Club, Law of the Land, the Law Women’s Caucus Mentoring Program, and the Law School Gardeners.

What has your clinical work entailed thus far?

I have been able to work on a wide variety of cases concerning deeply interesting and challenging employment law cases—two class action lawsuits, an employment law case representing a Chicago firefighter that has been remanded from the Seventh Circuit, and an employment law case in the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Most excitingly, one of our class action lawsuits is going to trial next spring!

How will your clinical experience impact your career path?

This experience has solidified my interest in employment law and given me real practical experience in the field. Also, I’ve been able to work with incredible attorneys like Professor Schmidt, in addition to clinic alumni who serve as co-counsels on several cases. I intend to remain involved in the clinic for my next two years of school.

What job would you most like to be doing in fifteen years?

In 15 years I hope to be combating injustice in employment law contexts. I don’t know where this will be, but I know that my experience this summer has given me a strong foundation.

About Kathleen O’Leary

  • Undergraduate Institution: University of Florida
  • Hometown: Clearwater, Florida
  • Summer 2018 Work: Employment Discrimination Clinic